When facing criminal charges for aggravated assault in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the most important thing to understand is that this is a very serious felony charge. You do not want to end up with this kind of charge on your record if it is at all avoidable. At the same time, you need to keep in mind that you are innocent until proven guilty. Avoid discussing the charges without an attorney present.
Which Crimes Constitute Aggravated Assault Charges in Tennessee?
If you are charged with aggravated assault, then you are likely being accused of one of the following violent crimes:
- Causing serious physical injury recklessly, intentionally, or knowingly
- Being the parent/guardian of an abused child or disabled adult and knowingly allowing aggravated assault or child abuse to happen, without protecting the victim
- Committing simple assault (a lesser charge), but while threatening with a deadly weapon
- Attempting to do any of the above, even if you did not successfully cause injury
What Does It Mean to Cause Injury Through Recklessness?
Whenever someone causes injury to another person without intending to do so, but through actions that are considered to be egregiously negligent or without concern for how those actions may harm another individual, this is considered recklessness and can lead to an aggravated assault charge. Following are a few examples of how aggravated assault charges could occur through recklessness:
- Someone is playing with a gun carelessly when they accidentally shoot another person
- Someone is recklessly pushing and shoving through a crowd and shoves someone in such a way that the person falls and becomes injured.
- Two people are tossing a child back and forth and one person fails to catch the child
The common elements in these cases are:
- The accused did not intend to hurt someone.
- The accused consciously knew the actions could potentially hurt someone.
- The action of the accused, as they should have predicted, caused serious bodily injury.
How Does Tennessee Define Serious Bodily Injury?
To understand which circumstances may result in aggravated assault charges, you need to know the definition of serious bodily injury as compared to minor injuries.
Minor injuries include:
- Minor cuts
Serious bodily injury refers to more significant injuries, such as:
- Broken bones
- Lost limbs
- Disfiguring injuries
- Injuries that require surgical treatment.
Injuries that could be deadly, or do result in a death, are also serious bodily injuries.
What Qualifies as a Deadly Weapon in an Aggravated Assault Case in Tennessee?
Simple assault can become aggravated assault when a deadly weapon is used to threaten the victim. A deadly weapon is any kind of object that is designed to cause or capable of causing serious bodily injury or death. For example, guns and knives are obviously deadly weapons. Yet, a tire iron could also be a deadly weapon, as could a rope that might be used to strangle someone. Even a baseball bat can be considered as a deadly weapon. It all depends on how it is used and whether it is used to threaten, intimidate, or actually harm the victim.
What Are the Consequences of Conviction in an Aggravated Assault Case?
The consequences of a conviction in an aggravated assault case in Tennessee will depend on the circumstances and the specific conditions of the elements that led to the criminal charge. You may be facing any of the following consequences, depending on whether the incident was intentional or reckless:
- Class C Felony: The act was intentional or the accused failed to protect a child or disabled adult victim
- Class D Felony: The act was reckless
- Class A Misdemeanor: The victim was a public employee
The some of the consequences associated with these crimes are as follows:
- Class C Felony: Imprisonment for three to fifteen years and up to $10K in fines
- Class D Felony: Imprisonment for two to twelve years and up to $5K in fines
- Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for less than one year and up to $2,500 in fines
In many cases, the person convicted of an aggravated assault crime will also have to pay restitution to the victims of the crime. This may include the cost of medical expenses, property damage, counseling services, lost wages, and other damages related to the crime and the injuries.
Alternatives to Imprisonment for an Aggravated Assault Crime
Not everyone who is convicted of an aggravated assault crime in Tennessee is going to end up in jail or prison. There are alternatives that can keep you facing these consequences:
- Deferred Sentence: A deferred sentence or judicial diversion is an option for those who do not have any prior convictions. In these cases, the courts may allow for the sentencing to be postponed until such time as the convicted person is able to complete certain requirements like probation, psychological treatment, and not getting any further charges pressed against them.
- Suspended Sentence: A suspended sentence is when the convicted person is given a sentence, but is allowed to serve part or all of their time on probation. The person will have to meet certain requirements, including keeping a job and completing treatment. They will also have to pay probation fees, pass drug tests, and avoid engaging in any criminal activity.
- Reduced or Dropped Charges: One way to get the best outcome in an aggravated assault case is to accept a plea agreement. When you do this, you can get your charges and/or punishment reduced in exchange for a guilty plea. In other cases, you may be able to get your charges completely dropped before you ever have to go to trial.
Defense Against Aggravated Assault Charges
In a court of law, you are innocent until proven guilty, so it is important to discuss your options with your attorney. Essentially, there are two ways you can challenge the charges made against you:
- Self-Defense: Did you have absolutely no choice but to defend yourself against the agitator? Did you believe that a danger existed which was uncaused by you? If you felt the threat was imminent and real, you may have a case in your favor.
- Mistake of Identify: If you feel that a witness has mistakenly identified you with someone else, you can challenge these charges. There are multiple reasons as to why a mistake of identity can take place:
- Emotional duress has been shown to effect a person's ability to recall the past
- The incident took place in an area with poor lighting
- Law enforcement may have influenced the witness in some capacity
Consult with a Criminal Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Aggravated Assault Charges
In all of these cases, you will have the best likelihood of favorable results with a skilled criminal defense attorney fighting on your behalf. An experienced lawyer can work to get your charges dropped or reduced, negotiate a plea agreement, fight for your innocence, or minimize the severity of the consequences if you are convicted of the crime.
Contact Best And Brock to learn more about your options when facing charges for aggravated assault in Chattanooga, TN.